Orioles’ five-hour wait pays off with another walkoff win over Royals, 4-3

On a cold, dreary, April day, the Orioles and Royals decided to wait through a five-hour rain delay to play baseball.

For the Orioles, the payoff was totally worth it.

James McCann’s two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth led the Birds to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Royals, their second walkoff win of the series. A game that once seemed a lost cause for the Orioles — after a shaky Corbin Burnes start and a seven-inning no-show from the offense — turned amazing late when the O’s tallied four runs in their final two frames to stun the bleary-eyed Royals.

Nearly eight hours after the game was supposed to begin, the Orioles celebrated an improbable victory, capping a 4-2 homestand before they head out for their first road trip of 2024.

It’s a wonder this wild contest was played at all. Torrential rain pelted Camden Yards all morning and well into the afternoon, long past the 1:05 scheduled start time. Nobody would have blinked an eye if the two teams decided to just scrap the game, catch their respective flights out of town, and find a common off day to reschedule. And yet, we waited, because the public demands to watch early-April Orioles vs. Royals action, darn it! It’s what the nation has been clamoring for!

And so the clock ticked. The hours whittled by. One. Then two. And what’s three more? Long past the point of insanity, the two clubs continued to wait it out, as did a truly dedicated group of a couple hundred fans who remained at a chilly, rainy Camden Yards for the entire five-hour delay. That is commitment, folks. Finally, at around 5:30 PM, a break in the rain opened long enough for the grounds crew to remove the tarp, and at 6:05, against all odds, a baseball game began.

It would have been lovely if the Orioles had treated those intrepid fans who stuck around to a quick, easy win, but instead the vibes were totally off from the get-go. Starter Corbin Burnes, pitching on a rain-soaked field with a handful of people in attendance compared to the 45,000 on Opening Day, could not replicate the magic of his debut.

The trouble began with his second batter, Bobby Witt Jr., who lashed a sinking liner to center field. Jorge Mateo, making his first start of the year in center, reacted a bit late, then came charging in with a dive and had it deflect off his glove. It wasn’t a routine play, but it was a catch that many outfielders would make, and certainly Cedric Mullins. I feel like the Jorge Mateo outfield experiment might not have the results the Orioles were hoping for. (Mateo also bobbled a double later in the inning.) Witt ended up with a two-bagger, then scampered to third on a Burnes wild pitch.

Next, Vinnie Pasquantino bounced a comebacker that Burnes speared, firing to the plate to capture Witt in a pickle. But the speedster stayed in the rundown for so long — with the Orioles making five throws, eventually retiring him 1-2-5-1-2-3 — that Pasquantino scampered all the way to third. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the trail runner advance three bases on a rundown before. That proved important, as Salvador Perez blooped a duck-snort single into shallow left to plate Pasquantino, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead. After another double put two in scoring position, Burnes struck out Hunter Renfroe to end a laborious, 27-pitch first inning.

Burnes never really had an easy inning all night. The Royals put a runner on base in each of his five full innings, and a runner in scoring position in the first four. They tallied their second run in the top of the third when Witt singled, swiped second — one of three Royals steals against Burnes tonight — and scored on a Perez single. Renfroe added a third Kansas City base hit that inning before Burnes retired old friend Adam Frazier to strand two.

Despite giving up nine hits, Burnes gutted through the evening with minimal damage, allowing only those two runs before being removed at exactly 100 pitches with two outs in the sixth. It says something about Burnes that, even in what would be considered a rocky outing for him, he was just one out shy of a quality start.

Of course, Burnes could have thrown six perfect innings and he still wouldn’t have gotten the win, for all the “help” his offense gave him. An offense that a night ago was shut down by the nondescript Alec Marsh didn’t stand a chance against an actual good pitcher, Cole Ragans, who’s transformed into an ace since the Royals acquired him last June. Goodness, was Ragans sharp tonight…or, goodness, was the Orioles’ offense bad. Let’s call it a combination of both.

Ragans dominated from the get-go, mowing down the first 10 batters he faced, the second straight game in which at least 10 Orioles batters in a row were retired. Not a great look, guys! The Birds managed only one ball out of the infield during that stretch. Finally, Adley Rutschman spoiled Ragans’s modest perfecto bid with a double to the gap in the fourth, prompting Mr. Splash to douse the already rain-soaked eight or so people in his section. But Ragans left Adley stranded by retiring the next two batters, starting a streak of another eight outs in a row. Meanwhile, Kansas City extended its lead to 3-0 in the seventh on a Maikel Garcia homer off Mike Baumann.

It wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Orioles chased Ragans from the game, with Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle drawing back-to-back walks to start the frame. Ragans delivered one last blow, striking out Anthony Santander, to finish his evening after 6.1 dominant, one-hit innings. Reliever James McArthur got the last two outs to strand the two inherited runners, preserving Ragans’s scoreless outing.

The Birds headed to the eighth, trailing 3-0, in what was shaping up to be an utterly lifeless defeat in miserable conditions. But their momentum started to shift against a leaky Royals bullpen. Colton Cowser led off the eighth with a pinch-hit single, and McCann doubled to left. After retiring Ramón Urías (now 0-for-13 this year), McArthur was replaced by lefty Ángel Zerpa. Gunnar Henderson lined a sac fly to center, plating the Birds’ first run, and Rutschman followed with an opposite-field double to right to plate McCann, though Renfroe made a stupendous throw from the warning track to cut down Adley at second base. The inning was over, but the Orioles had closed the gap to 3-2.

In the ninth, they finished the job against closer Will Smith. Will Smith has been around so long that he was Kansas City’s starting pitcher when Manny Machado made his major league debut for the Orioles on Aug. 9, 2012. And now here he is, back with the Royals as a veteran reliever, and — if tonight is any indication — not a particularly good one. He walked Mountcastle on four pitches to start the inning, and Santander smoked a single to left. The O’s were in business.

Brandon Hyde made the curious decision to have Jordan Westburg sac bunt, something he’s never done in his professional career. I would’ve rather taken my chances with Mr. Game 1 Walkoff swinging the bat, but to his credit, he got the bunt down perfectly. The Royals then elected to intentionally walk the badly struggling Austin Hays, setting up a lefty-lefty matchup with Smith and Cowser.

The veteran won that one, striking out Cowser, but didn’t win the next battle. McCann, with the bases loaded and two outs, took two balls and then jumped on a four-seamer and smacked it to the left side, perfectly finding a hole between shortstop and third. BASE HIT! Mountcastle scored, and right behind him was the pinch-running Cedric Mullins, who slid in well ahead of the throw to the plate and was mobbed by his teammates. Orioles win!! The entire Orioles bench dog-piled McCann at first base, and those brave O’s fans still in attendance got to go home happy.

What a long, long day of baseball. And my, what an ending.

Poll

Who was the Most Birdland Player for Wednesday, April 3?

  • 94%

    James McCann (2-for-4, walkoff single in ninth)

    (355 votes)

  • 5%

    Adley Rutschman (reached base three times, RBI double)

    (22 votes)



377 votes total

Vote Now

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